Dec 10, 2008

a legal loophole for Blackwater in Iraq

Regarding the Jan/Feb LD resolution, reader F. Ivie asks,
Do you think the US occupation of Iraq will be an issue in this resolution?
Potentially--or, at least, in principle.

Jacob Sullum describes how five former Blackwater employees in Iraq might escape prosecution for manslaughter because of a loophole in American law.
According to Ridgeway, members of the convoy made "no attempt to provide reasonable warnings" to the Kia driver, and "turret gunners in the convoy continued to fire their machine guns at civilian vehicles that posed no threat."

Such actions do appear to qualify as voluntary manslaughter, defined by federal law as "the unlawful killing of a human being without malice...upon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion." The problem is that U.S. criminal law generally does not apply in foreign countries.

The Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA), the 2000 statute under which the Blackwater guards are charged, covers people "employed by or accompanying the Armed Forces outside the United States," including Defense Department contractors. But Blackwater was hired by the State Department....

The obvious solution is to prosecute the former Blackwater employees under Iraqi law. But an order by the provisional government created after the U.S. invasion made contractors immune from local prosecutions for work-related conduct. Largely as a result of outrage over the Nisour Square incident, that immunity will be lifted under an agreement that takes effect in January--too late for justice in this case.
Though the five employees are not on trial for a "crime against humanity," the principle is the same: when U.S. law is insufficient to carry out prosecutions, or when the U.S. places politics over clear rights violations, the ICC (or something like it) provides a clear, nonnegotiable framework for ensuring that criminals receive due punishment.

Potentially--or, at least, in principle.


TeacherRefPoet said...

Of course, many of the perpetrators of the crimes at Abu Ghraib are currently serving time. They've been found guilty by US military and civilian courts. So one could argue that on the Neg. And Saddam Hussein was brought to justice not by an ICC, but by an Iraqi court. Another Neg arguments.

Of course, one could argue that the Abu Ghraib perpetrators got slaps on the wrist and that Saddam was only tried due to an illegal invasion by the US. So there's Aff ground too.

Yeah, Iraq will come up.

Emily said...

Jim, is there any proof that establishing an international court would solve such loopholes? I used this as evidence on my Aff case a few days ago, and I was unable to prove that to my opponent.

Jim Anderson said...

Emily, there's no way to prove the Court would *successfully* prosecute such a case (and remember, this particular instance is only an example of principle), but the ICC is specifically designed to take cases where nations are either unable or unwilling to prosecute "crimes against humanity." So, yes, it closes any similar loopholes in U.S. (or any other nation's) laws, at least regarding "crimes against humanity."

Neil said...

Mr. Anderson -
This article gave me an important question: "Who commits crimes against humanity?" Or more accurately, "who is prosecuted?" Who has been prosecuted in the past? Is it individuals (such as the soldiers at Abu Ghraib) or is it leaders? I know the aff could probably pick, however, I am asking what has been done in the past.
Thanks! (: